I haven’t been here for a couple of months. Every time I have something to write about, someone I know and love goes and dies, or gets admitted to hospital, and the time just goes by in a meaningless blur of hospital visits, funerals and gloomy evenings wondering who’ll be next.
The funeral I went to this week was that of a dear friend K who I’ve known since I was eight years old, she worked in the corner shop, I went to school with two of her children, and then she worked in my shop for twenty years. Almost like a second mum, she was. When she mentioned the possibility of her putative retirement a few years ago, I jokingly persuaded her to stay with me, on the grounds that a funeral wreath would be a far more economical proposition for me than a retirement do. And so it came to be. It was so sad. Lots of tearful hugs with her husband, son, beautiful daughters and granddaughters, who’ve come to feel like my own family.
Another friend who died a month ago or so was an ex-Kriegsmarine and Hitlerjugend member, Gerhardt, who came to live in England as a POW in 1945 after slipping out of the Russians’ grasp in the Baltic theatre and throwing himself at the Royal Navy. I’ve known him since the mid 1990s and we’ve had many interesting convos, and I always grabbed some photos of Eastern European cities for him on my travels, as requested by him as souveniers of places he’d passed through in the 1940s. He gave me a copy of his pre-war and wartime memoirs. His widow came in to see me last week, thanked me for being a friend to G and then told me she has had to start having counselling because of some old photos and documents of his that she’d found. She wouldn’t go into any detail, but I know that G had maintained some associations with a few of his military comrades. Maybe something to do with that.
One thing that all this death and the associated ceremonies has decided for me is that I will not have any hymns mumbled and mouthed at my funeral whenever that happy occasion comes. Nobody seems to know any of the old hymns anymore, I suppose because they’re probably deemed to be inappropriate in schools and the churches are doing their best to alienate people. So at mine, I’ll have a mixtape prepared, they can listen, they can bop, they can tap their feet and hum along. But no-one will be obliged to pretend to sing songs that they don’t know.
Mathew the Fretful came into the shop the day after K’s funeral. He apologised for his absence.
‘But Mathew, fret not, you hardly knew her. You’d have known nobody else there apart from me and the girls from the shop, and I think I can safely say that we’d have been fucked if any of us were going to be holding your hand and pointing out the grieving relatives for you all fucking day’. I said. Or words to that effect.
‘But I would have liked to have gone. I didn’t sleep the night before, so I felt dreadful’. He sighed.
‘Ah, Mathew, I didn’t realise that you knew her that well or that her loss would affect you so. Sorry.’ I felt almost guilty.
‘No, it’s not that. My little cat wanted to spend the night coming and going, and she hasn’t worked out how to use the catflap yet, and I don’t like to prop it open because it might get windy and blow the boiler out, so I sat up all night to let her in and out. All night. I’m still tired now.’
This is the man who takes a fifteen mile train journey once a month to a particular shop as recommended by the vet, to buy special cat biscuits which relieve the cat’s symptoms of interstitial cystitis. How the fuck do you know that your cat’s got cystitis? I find this very concerning. But I’ll not fret on it, nor lose a night’s sleep.
So that’s life at the moment. I go on my bicycle rides every couple of nights, with only seventy three miles to go to reach my target of a thousand for the year. My but it’s blustery and chill going along the coast on these November evenings.
I recently booked a weeks holiday for myself and my lovely wife Juanita for February. Fuerteventura. Never been there before. It’s my first ever all-inclusive holiday, and after booking it I was reading some reviews. Arse about visage as usual. There were mentions of entertainment. As in laid on entertainment. I screwed my face up. I turned to Juanita.
“It says here there’s Entertainment. I’m not going to get involved in Entertainment. I don’t go on holiday for fucking Entertainment. I go for foreign food and to relax. And the other stuff of course, but Entertainment? What’s that all about?”
She fixed me with a look that could only be a particular expression of adoration.
“It’s a holiday. You don’t have to go to the entertainment. Just enjoy it.” She’s good at stating the blindingly obvious, is Juanita.
Black Fly is just starting, I love turning it up loud and the following track, So Sad, so I’m going to leave you now. Night night.